José Ángel Hevia Velasco
 
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José Ángel Hevia Velasco
 
In the late 20th century, various models of electronic bagpipes have been invented. The first custom-built MIDI bagpipes were developed by the Asturian piper José Ángel Hevia Velasco (generally known simply as Hevia).[3] Some models allow the player to select the sound of several different bagpipes as well as switch keys. As yet they are not widely used due to technical limitations, but they have found a useful niche as a practice instrument (particularly with headphones).

José Angel Hevia Velasco, now known to the world as Hevia, has made quite a name for himself in the bagpipe world. Whether you love or hate his innovations (electronic bagpipes that have no physical drones and don't use actual reeds), he has certainly brought the bagpipe to the consciousness of thousands of new devotees in his native Spain and throughout Europe. His album Tierra de Nadie, and the unlikely hit single, "Busindre Reel," have made him a household word at home and abroad. In the wake of that success, Hevia released this video, recorded live in concert, before an adoring audience in Madrid.

It's hard to complain about the music on Live in Madrid. Hevia surrounds himself with an eight-piece band that features at least four percussionists. This may be a bit of overkill, as his sister María José Hevia, one of the percussion players, is completely inaudible about half the time but is clearly a talented musician when you can hear her. Other instruments you'll hear are fiddle, didgeridoo, oud, guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. The band goes to town on versions of Hevia's Tierra de Nadie material, including "Busindre Reel," "La Linea Trazada," "Barganaz," and the Ramón Prada composition "Sobrepena." Some tracks feature Hevia's flute backed by roaring didgeridoo, swirling fiddle, and bass; others are fronted by his smooth-sounding electronic bagpipes, which look strangely bald without drones; and a surprising number feature the low whistle as the main instrument. Whatever he's playing, Hevia is clearly a master musician, and all the music is superb.

One of the nicest facets of this video is that Hevia invites some traditional musicians along to share the limelight. He is particularly generous to Collectivu Ethnográfico Muyeres, a group of women who sing in strong, sharp voices and play the pandero, or square tambourine. They provide most of the vocals on the video and are introduced by Hevia right after his opening number. Hevia also invites along a large pipe band made up entirely of his students, who join in on some tunes.

If there is a fault here, it's clearly that some of the arrangements get too busy. At one point, when the eight-piece and the pipe band are suddenly joined by what sounds like a boys' choir, it gets downright turgid. But Hevia keeps most of it lively and interesting without overloading us too much. For an encore, he picks up his good old acoustic bagpipes and treats the audience to some rapid-fire improvisation; it's a great way to prove he's not dependant on any of the bombast or electronics to make stirring, beautiful music.

Celtic music is found in two regions of Spain - Asturias and Galicia - both situated in the northwest corner of the country. In fact, according to researchers from Oxford University, the original inhabitants and the Celts of the British Isles would have migrated from these regions in the Iberian Peninsula around 5000 BCE:
"People of Celtic ancestry were thought to have descended from tribes of central Europe. Professor Sykes, who is soon to publish the first DNA map of the British Isles, said: "About 6,000 years ago Iberians developed ocean-going boats that enabled them to push up the Channel. Before they arrived, there were some human inhabitants of Britain but only a few thousand in number. These people were later subsumed into a larger Celtic tribe... The majority of people in the British Isles are actually descended from the Spanish."
The music of the region of Asturias in northern Spain has more in common with Brittany, Wales and Ireland than Spanish music from Castille or Andalusia. Traditional Asturian instruments include bagpipes, called the Gaita, the harp loom and Asturian drums.
Jose Angel Hevia is an Asturian bagpiper and flautist who combines Celtic and traditional Asturian elements in his music. Hevia began playing the Asturian bagpipe as a young boy and has acheived great success with his albums on Spanish Celtic music

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